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A Major Community Asset: MVH’s Level I Trauma Center

Mary McCarthy, MD, Trauma Center director at Miami Valley Hospital and clinical professor at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, has a special name for the season that starts the first warm day in March and continues until late October. It’s called “motorcycle season.” That’s when she and her staff of seven trauma surgeons start seeing hundreds of motorcycle accident victims, many of whom have life-threatening injuries. Some – mostly those who were not wearing helmets – do not survive.

 Ollendick and guitar
Andrew (AJ) Ollendick knows he’s lucky to be alive after being thrown from a motorcycle five years ago. He was fortunate to be wearing a helmet and to be taken by CareFlight to MVH, a Level I Trauma Center.

Andrew (AJ) Ollendick was wearing a helmet when he swerved the borrowed GSX-R Suzuki motorcycle he was driving to avoid hitting a deer and slammed into a tree near Wilmington, Ohio, the night of April 15, 2005 (his 18th birthday). While he did not suffer any head injuries, he sustained major internal damage to his spleen, small intestine, colon, kidney and liver in addition to multiple abrasions and a broken arm. 

Fortunately for him, MVH’s CareFlight had recently based one of its air ambulances at the nearby Warren County airport. AJ was rushed to MVH where a team of doctors and other medical specialists was standing by to assess his injuries and take action to save his life. As Liz Denlinger, RN, Trauma Program manager, explains, “It takes us 30 seconds from the time we’re notified that a trauma patient is en route to implement our trauma alert notification system.”

The trauma alert assembles a team to treat the incoming trauma patient and ensures that resources such as medical imaging, operating rooms and blood products are immediately available.

At MVH, patients like AJ are usually met and cared for by an acute care surgeon, a relatively new type of medical specialist trained in trauma, critical care and emergency surgery. However, other specialists such as neurosurgeons, plastic surgeons, oral surgeons and orthopedic surgeons are paged if needed.

“We are keenly aware of the benefits of coordinated trauma care,” says Denlinger. “It improves the chances for survival and provides better outcomes for patients with traumatic injuries. Time-saving plans like ‘direct-to-operating room’ enable us to provide exceptional trauma care.”
AJ was taken very quickly to the OR, where Mbaga Walusimbi, MD, a MVH trauma surgeon and clinical assistant professor at WSU Boonshoft School of Medicine, removed his spleen. Dr. Walusimbi also oversaw AJ during his stay in the Intensive Care Unit.

The Concept of a Trauma Center

Ollendick and father
While AJ waits for the next chapter of his life to unfold, he keeps busy with model railroading, a hobby he enjoys with his father Ralph (right).

During his stay at MVH, AJ underwent seven surgeries. After his initial surgery, he spent a month in the ICU in an induced coma. That was followed by more surgeries and weeks of rehabilitation. All told, AJ spent three months at MVH. “At one point, I had seven central lines inserted in my body plus 27 IVs,” recounts AJ. “I woke up May 28 from my coma, thought it was April 16, and was hoping to get out of the hospital in time for my June 3 high-school graduation.”

He didn’t realize that goal, but he did leave the hospital in mid-July. Two years later, he was in good enough shape (make that top shape) to join the U.S. Marines.

“Hundreds of people from many departments took care of AJ during his three-month stay at MVH, including four of our trauma surgeons,” says Dr. McCarthy. “It takes teamwork to ensure that trauma patients get the continuity of care essential to their recovery – not only physicians and nurses, but therapists and other professionals such as psychologists, social workers and counselors. Being a trauma center is an enormous commitment of resources.”

AJ acknowledges the many caregivers who treated him during his long stay. He speaks glowingly of Dr. McCarthy, who oversaw his case, the trauma surgeons who operated on him, the nurses who cared for him and the physical therapists who encouraged him to set goals and then worked with him to meet them.

“A trauma center is not a distinct part of a hospital,” explains Liz Denlinger. “It is the entire hospital, starting with the emergency room and extending to every area and every person with whom the trauma patient interacts.”

Because AJ’s home is near New Richmond, Ohio, east of Cincinnati, his parents considered transferring him to the University Hospital in Cincinnati. But, says AJ’s father, Ralph, “We were so pleased with the care he was receiving at Miami Valley Hospital, his mother or I made the 150-mile roundtrip almost daily to be by his bedside.”

Peter Ekeh, MD, a MVH trauma surgeon and clinical associate professor at WSU Boonshoft School of Medicine, remembers well the spunky patient whose abdomen he closed up after it was open for weeks following one surgery after another. “He endured a lot, but he had youth on his side and amazing support from his family, both of which were critical to his recovery. I followed him after he left the hospital and was not all that surprised he was in good enough shape to join the Marines.”

Mary McCarthy, MD
Liz Denlinger, RN
Mbaga Walusimbi, MD
Peter Ekeh, MD

MVH – a Level I Trauma Center

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) verifies a hospital’s capability as a trauma center, based on “commitment, readiness, resources, policies, patient care, and performance improvement.”  Furthermore, the ACS identifies trauma centers by level – with Level I providing the highest level of care and Level III providing limited care. (Some states have a Level IV designation). A list of verified trauma centers in the U.S. (and their levels) is available at

MVH is the only Level I trauma center in the region. It provides care for seriously injured patients in 17 counties in southwest Ohio and east Indiana. In 2009, MVH treated more than 3,000 trauma patients admitted directly to the hospital or transferred from outlying hospitals.

On the night of his accident, AJ was fortunate not only to be wearing a helmet and to be close to a CareFlight airport, but also to be transported to a Level I Trauma Center.

AJ – Five Years Later

Two years after leaving MVH, AJ was in such good physical shape he survived another grueling episode – Marine boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. After that, he underwent training in the Mojave Desert in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. While carrying a 105-pound pack, including ammo, he scaled a wall and injured ligaments in his leg. “That got me another helicopter ride – this time to a military hospital,” explains AJ.

Currently, he is on a long waiting list to undergo surgery at a VA hospital. His goal is to once again recover from his injuries so he can re-enlist in the Marines and serve his country. He takes to heart the Marine adage: “Adapt, Overcome, Improvise.”

WPAFB Partnership Miami Valley Hospital is a partner with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Medical Center in the Sustaining Trauma and Resuscitation Skills – Program (STARS-P). The purpose of the program is “to maintain trauma and resuscitative skills of medical personnel assigned to specified MTFs [military treatment facilities] by regularly immersing staff in on-going clinical rotations at nearby civilian Level I trauma centers to maintain clinical proficiency.”





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